With so many families learning and working from home these days, it can be difficult to make enough space for everyone. Parents and kids alike suffer from the distractions of a busy household. With everyone trying to eat, play, work, rest, and learn all at the same time and in the same house, it's no surprise that productivity can suffer.
A kids workspace might not replace the structure and familiarity of a classroom, but it can give kids a dedicated space to focus on their studies. We've created a guide for building a kids workspace that will help them stay focused, energized, and on task while distance learning from home.
Choose a Location
You don't need a home office for every member of your family to set your child up for success. Whether it's a desk in their bedroom or a seat at the dining room table, what matters is they have a dedicated spot for schoolwork. Having a spot for school helps children differentiate between school time and non-school time, helps them stick to a routine, and helps them focus.
Your child's workspace could be in their bedroom, a corner of the living room, or even a chair at your own desk. Where you choose will depend on your child's age and learning style, and your family's available space and needs.
photo by @andreapiacquadio_
A central location is best for younger learners who might need more parental supervision when it comes to staying on task. A seat at the dining room table may be just the spot where you can keep an eye on them. Some older children learn better with others around. Being in a central location might help them focus better than the creepy quiet of an empty room. If your child works well at the kitchen counter amid the hustle-and-bustle, then by all means, let them.
Wherever they set up, this dedicated spot should remain consistent. Having a stable routine can replicate some of the familiarity and structure of a classroom and keep kids focused. To quickly and easily convert your kitchen table, counter, etc. into a school desk, you'll want to invest in mobile organizers. A mobile supplies cart or even a backpack to store school supplies will make setting up for school stress-free. A backpack has the added benefit of helping your child get more in the 'school zone,' giving them the feeling of getting ready for school when the supplies are laid out. At the end of the day, simply put the supplies away and transition out of the school day.
Out of the Way Location
photo by Julia M Cameron
Older kids who focus better without supervision might benefit from some sectioned-off space in a living room or other communal area. The end of a quiet hallway, a finished basement, or breakfast nook could be the ideal spot for setting up a semi-permanent or permanent kids workspace.
This space should be free from as many distractions as possible. Though white noise or low music might actually help kids focus, the TV should remain off. Consider cubby storage, bookshelves, curtains, or even a screen to give them some privacy from the family while they're working—or give your home some while they're in virtual class.
Depending on your available space, get creative! Linen closets can be converted into desk nooks, shallow counters can turn landings or hallways into study areas, even sectioning off part of your own desk for your kids workspace could give them just the space they need.
photo by @victoriaborodinova
Though this may seem the most obvious place to set up a kids workspace, it's last for a reason. A bedroom is filled with distractions. Not only might their toys tempt them away from schoolwork, but it is difficult to keep a bedroom work station a 'dedicated spot.' Things that aren't school supplies tend to migrate to bedroom surfaces, making it more difficult to keep schoolwork organized. It might also be challenging for your child to transition between school time and non-school time, if their bedroom doubles as the space for both.
If you do choose to set up in the bedroom—maybe it's where your child feels the most comfortable, maybe it's the quietest place in the house—make sure that the dedicated spot remains the dedicated spot. This is a great teaching opportunity for helping your child stay organized. Keep school supplies in acrylic organizers to cut down on clutter and make pencils, crayons, and erasers easy to find. Make sure kids understand that the desk is for schoolwork, not play, and help them put everything away after lessons to signify the end of the school day.
Set It Up
What you choose to add to your workspace will depend on its location, your home's set-up, and your child's needs. Not every child will need their own desk, but you should still give some thought to furniture, lighting, and storage when designing their study area.
Before you go ahead and start painting that old desk in the attic, get your kid involved. This study space will be for them, after all, and will have to suit their comfort level as much as yours. Engaging with your child to build the space together will get them excited and make spending time there feel less like a chore or a time-out. Get their input on what's comfortable for them, and help them organize and decorate so it feels like their very own.
photo by August de Richelieu
A Flat Table
Whether they're set up at a kitchen counter or have their own desk built into a loft bed—a smooth, flat surface is key, especially for older kids. Kindergarteners who may only be spending an hour or two at virtual homeroom might not need more than a play table or kids lap tray. Older kids, however, spend the better part of the day in their chairs and will need enough table space for their work, supplies, and whatever devices their schoolwork requires.
The height of the desk is also important. If a desk is too large or small, it can lead to bad posture, which contributes to fidgeting, fatigue, and other, long-term issues. When seated at a desk, a child's feet should touch the ground, with their knees bent at 90°. Their wrists should rest comfortably on the desk, with back straight and elbows also at a 90° angle. If they are looking at a screen or tablet, it should be mounted straight ahead, so they are not looking up or down. A tablet stand, laptop stand, or smartphone stand to keep their devices at eye-level will reduce neck and back strain. If you're able, consider investing in an adjustable desk that will fit your child as they grow.
The Right Chair
Unless your child prefers standing at their desk, the right chair is the second piece of the puzzle when it comes to comfort. A good chair, like a good desk, encourages good posture and helps kids stay focused for longer. An adjustable chair, like an adjustable desk, is ideal for a growing child, but what matters is that the chair fits them and is comfortable.
If their chair is too high, add a footstool, stacked books, or crate so their feet aren't dangling. If the chair is too low, add cushions, phone books (are those still a thing?), or a booster seat. A rolled-up towel or a pillow for their lower back is a helpful feature for keeping good posture, as well.
Natural lighting is best, but as long as your kids workspace is well-lit, it'll help them focus. A desk light will do, but here's a chance to add some fun and make their study space more engaging. Stylish hanging lamps in different shapes and colors add a lot of character. Lighting from multiple sources can also help brighten up the space, boost their mood, and keep their energy up.
Decorate & Organize
photo by Dominika Roseclay
Now comes the fun part. Organizing and decorating your kids workspace is something you can do together. You'll have the peace of mind of knowing everything has its proper place, and they'll have some ownership over their own workstation. The more involved they are in helping create their own space, the more engaged they will be in using it.
Whether the kids workspace is a mobile station that can fit at any table, desk, or counter, or a permanent space with its own furniture and lighting, storage matters. Keeping an organized work station, wherever it is, is key to productivity. Storage can be as basic as a homework caddy or as unique as repurposed cookie jars. It all depends on you and your child's space, needs, and creativity.
We mentioned a backpack for keeping school supplies in if your child works at a busy, central location in the house. Mobile carts also help keep things accessible and tidy—roll it out for crafts time and roll it right back when the table's cleared. Having all your child's supplies in one spot will reduce the time and stress it takes to set up for the school day and will help them focus on their work rather than searching for a rogue pencil sharpener.
For more semi-permanent and permanent station, keep clutter to a minimum. To minimize distractions, put in easy reach only what they'll need for their day-to-day work. For supplies they might not need as often, find an accessible but out-of-the way space in a cubby, on a shelf, or even in a shoebox—somewhere they can get to on their own, but won't get mixed up with the more basic supplies. You want to keep them seated and on task, not wandering around the house looking for supplies...and finding toys and games instead.
photo by @jessbailey.com.au
When it comes to walls, the sky is the limit! (Ok, so the ceiling is). Using walls for extra storage is a great space-saver. Shelves, wall organizers, hanging folders, or a peg board are all handy additions to maximizing storage space.
Mounted hanging folders help keep paperwork from migrating throughout the house. Consider a parents in/out tray, so you can keep track of assignments that still need to be completed. If siblings share your kids workspace, labelling these folders will help keep their assignments separate.
Wall organizers can fit papers and notebooks, but also calculators, pencil sharpeners, and even a trusty dictionary. A peg board can be fitted with colorful shelves, containers, hooks, clips, and more. Allow your child to customize a peg board or cork board with washi tape to make the space a little more their own.
You don't have to fill the wall with shelves to make the best use of it. Chalk boards, white boards, or a wall calendar provide visual stimulation while helping keep kids on task. Printed wall paper, wall decals, or other art can make the space more inviting. The goal is to make a kids workspace that is functional and appealing so they stay comfortable and focused throughout the school day.
Keep a schedule on their chalk board, white board, or wall-mounted calendar of assignments, zoom dates with friends, and even your own meeting times so they know when you can and cannot be interrupted. Add colored chalk or markers, fun magnets, and other little personal touches. When so much of their work is virtual, having a physical reminder of tasks and class times can help keep kids on track.
To optimize your kids workspace, consider these additional tips:
photo by August de Richelieu
Make a Rotation Schedule
If your space is limited, consider one desk station that siblings can share. Set up a rotational schedule so each child has enough time at the desk for their classwork. Designate a comfy chair for a reading hour or stock up extra art supplies at the kitchen counter for the other 'learning stations' in rotation.
Respect the Space
The best way to teach your child to respect their workspace is to respect it yourself. You wouldn't want anyone barging into your office when you're trying to get work done, so have the same courtesy for your child's designated work time. Assign chores for before or after the school day, and reward kids for staying on task during their scheduled lessons.
Invest in a Label Maker
A label maker is a life saver if you have multiple kids. Label everything—pencil cases, calculators, notebooks, even the backs of their favorite chairs—anything to get them to stop fighting over supplies and get back to their school work.
Invest in Headphones
Headphones are a survival item for both of you. Between virtual classes and Zoom meetings, headphones help keep the classroom and office separate. They minimize household distractions and help keep them—and you—focused on work.
Breaks are important for anyone working at a desk for a substantial period of the day, but especially for kids. Kids need to move throughout the day to keep their energy up and their mind cleared. Take stretch breaks as a family or schedule their recess right before a more difficult learning task, so they come to it refreshed.
photo by August de Richelieu
A kids workspace will not solve all the challenges of remote learning, but hopefully it can bring a little more order to your home. Giving a child their own workspace means freeing up space for the rest of the family for meals, activities, or just down time. You might feel empowered to try that 1000-piece puzzle now that the dining room table is free, or maybe you just have a bit more breathing room.
A workspace of their very own means giving a child pride and a sense of ownership while teaching them valuable lessons about time management, organization, and personal responsibility. It helps them transition into and out of the school day, signaling to them when it's time to focus on work and when they can close their books, pack up their supplies, and spend time with the family.
We want to hear from you! Did you create your own kids workspace? What worked for you? What did you find challenging? Did you notice any differences in your child's attitude towards their school day? Let us know in the comments below.
Don't forget to share! Show us the workspaces you and your child built together on Instagram with the tag #generationsofstyle.